Poor home heating linked to asthma rise

Reduced home heating because of increasing power prices is being linked to a growing number of hospital admissions for asthma.

A study by University of Canterbury found asthma admissions and a lack of home heating are strongly connected, particularly for young children.

"Increasing electricity prices increase asthma admissions by reducing the level of home heating. Since asthma is such a prominent problem in developed countries, these findings may have important implications for public health policy," said economics and finance researcher Dr Andrea Menclova.

School terms, in particular the start of the school year, had a clear effect on asthma hospital admissions, she said.

If the efficiency of home heating was improved to allow increased heating for the same cost, it could have a positive effect on asthma symptoms and admissions, said Dr Menclova.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma among developed countries, with about 130 deaths each year caused by asthma attacks.

Maori are four times more likely than non-Maori to die from asthma.

The direct annual medical costs for treating asthma have been estimated as $125 million a year, said the researchers.

Better home heating affects asthma by killing dust mites, which require a relatively cool and humid environment to survive.

South Canterbury consistently has the highest national number of asthma admissions, said Dr Menclova. Waitemata and Auckland have the lowest.


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